Thursday, December 7, 2017

The evolution of fire-fighting in Kitchissippi

The new Kitchissippi Times is out today, and inside you'll find two articles that I contributed. The first one is my usual "Early Days" column, and its focus this week is on two important structures that were important to the community for a long time - the Churchill Avenue and Parkdale Avenue fire stations. The article covers the earliest days of fire fighting in the area, and tracks how technology and progress led to changes over time. Long-time residents will likely have memories of both stations, which closed in 1985. The Churchill station is long demolished, but luckily Parkdale was given heritage status in the 90s, and later added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

You can read the full article, with several photos here:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Short-lived Westboro Datsun

I came across this photo today which struck me as interesting, because Datsun really was a company that was popular in the 1970s, and then kind of disappeared in the mid-80s. Nowadays, Datsun has attained cult status, with a loyal fan base who manage to keep a few on the road to catch our eye every once in a while. But for sure it interested me to find out that there was actually a dedicated Datsun dealership in Westboro in the late 1970s!

Westboro Datsun at 225 Richmond Road, circa 1979

So Westboro Datsun was located at the northwest corner of Richmond Road and McRae. It's now the Otto's Subaru tall showroom at the corner. They renovated extensively back around 2006, and I'm pretty sure they completely replaced the entirety of he original building that had been there. However they kept the same footprint (though added the curved corner), so perhaps to get around zoning they had to keep a portion of the original building or something. So it's possible some of the original structure is still there. 

If original structure is still there, it dates back to 1935. That was when the first service station opened in this spot, in the most easterly part of the building, right alongside McRae. It was a Shell Oil station operated by a name likely more familiar to longer-term Westboro residents, Ken Workman. It stayed as Workman's right up until July of 1975. Workman had expanded the building sometime in the early 1950s to the full size it still is today.

Workman sold in 1975 and it appears it passed through a couple of hands. But for one brief and unique period saw it become "Westboro Datsun", during the height of the popularity of the Datsun. It opened as Westboro Datsun in January of 1978. A quick check of some newspapers from 1978-1979 yielded a few interesting old ads for the shop:

Ottawa Journal, January 18, 1978
Ottawa Journal, February 25, 1978

Interestingly, they had their grand opening four months after they opened... plus they had 1,000 steaks on a bun!

Ottawa Journal, May 11, 1978

Ottawa Journal, June 15, 1978
Ottawa Journal, September 13, 1978

The Westboro Datsun location was short-lived. It closed at the end of October 1979. In it's place came Westboro Auto Imports, where you could by a Lada, direct from cold war enemy Russia!

Journal, Nov 14, 1979

Westboro Auto Imports was of course operated by Otto Koller, who since 1969 had been running a service station and sales (Canada's first BMW seller) in a separate building on Richmond, but at the Tweedsmuir corner. It appears sometime in the early 1970s, Koller acquired the two old residential houses in between the Tweedsmuir lot and the old Workman's garage, tore them down and built a huge complex out of the whole block. Here is what Richmond looked like in 1963 before the Otto's development (Tweedsmuir at left, McRae at right, north is up):

1963 fire insurance plan of Ottawa

In the late 1980s Otto would change the name of the entire business to simply "Otto's", the name which is still attached today, and managed by his wife Huguette and daughter Sonia. (for more history of Otto's check out their webpage at

But for a little less than two years, Westboro Datsun had a brief life that was captured by a random photograph in 1979, and now shared today at the Kitchissippi Museum!